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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1964: TRENTON'S GOLDEN ERA COMES TO AN END


I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to remembering the Trenton of my younger years. Memories of those many Saturdays that I went "up town" with my mother as she paid our electric bill, to the many happy visits to Goldberg's incredible "Toyland".........those delicious hot dogs as we dined at Woolworth's or Kresge's lunch counter.........those countless Thursday nights when I went to pick up my my dear wife Judy as she finished her day in Yard's Infants' Wear Department, have giving me memories of Trenton that will be with me forever. History will show that the 1960's marked the beginning of the end of the Trenton we all knew and loved. One by one, merchants moved out as racial turmoil from the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King resulted in a complete breakdown of law and order as stores were burned, looted and decimated. Old stores that had been in the city for over 100 years were systematically burned and looted. One of the last old line stores to give up and move to safer and more accessible locations was S.P. Dunham. I miss that old store to this day. The best in shoes and mens' wear.....even as good as the Eton mens' shop, F.W. Donnelly, Bond, R.A. Donnelly, and Lord knows how many others.

From my Hamilton High class of '51 classmate, Lee Belardino:

Tom
What happened to Trenton is what happened to almost every major city. Flite to the suburbs and the malls. I remember taking the bus near Holy Angels church to go uptown. In the winter the bus was warm. I remember the hot dog smell out of the 5 AND 10 and no money to buy one.Xmas time shopping with all the crowd and the brisk air. Xmas songs coming from the stores. You don't get that atmosphere from the malls. Dunham's was my mothers favorite store. Lee
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Blogger Ralph Lucarella said...

HI TOM....MY DEAR FRIEND, SOPHIE DeANGELO, WORKED AT DUNHAM'S FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS. SHE WAS IN THE COSMETIC DEPT AND KEPT ME IN GOOD SUPPLY OF VARIOUS SAMPLES ALL THE WHILE. SHE WORKED WITH THEM IN BROAD STREET PARK AND ALSO, I BELIEVE, IN LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP. SHE DEVOTED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO THE STORE, MAY GOD BLESS HER AND MAY SHE REST IN PEACE. REGARDS.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Stephen Doyle said...

Great writing- its a shame that people did not take your very good advice to restore what was in Trenton rather than building anonymous, characterless, monstrosities of the 1980's and 1990's. BUT, even if its coming 30 years later, there is a slow shift to recognize the value of the historic buildings. They help make Trenton unique, and the younger generation would much rather live in a historic, unique, older building than a cookie cutter development. I still hold out hope that someday a new version of a Dunham's will return- who knows how long it will take though!!!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Anonymous Sally Logan Gilman said...

Tom: Your wonderful writing sure struck a chord with a lot of people. I fondly remember the downtown Trenton of my youth. I loved to shop Yard's and Dunham's and Stacy Sport Shop. Later, Arnold Constable where my friend and I bought matching yellow, oilskin slickers with corduroy on the collar. I rode the bus in and out and could ride everywhere on a transfer. I'm so sorry for what happened to our city but many of the large cities here in New England have suffered the same fate. Thanks again Tom for all you do.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Delete

Blogger Michael said...

Tom: I'm compelled to inject my 2 cents worth on the demise of "Uptown" Trenton. Growing up in "Jewtown" as we goyum, and our Jewish brethren referred to our hallowed neighborhood, ( This will be elaborated on in another item herein published) "Uptown" began in the same block as my Parish Church; Sacred Heart on South Broad St. The Baby Carriage Factory was the first significant store, than crossing Market St. began the Court House Complex. (The old Court House, the Annex, and the jail) Than we got into the Palace Theatre,with Mama Manukas's Washington Restaurant, Maury Robinson's, Harold's (Zelt) Mens' fashions, Eton ( the original) Mens'& boys Factory St. and Georges Men Shop, Kahn's "Treadeasy" shoes, which were across from O'Neill's shoe repair, and the magnificent "Van Sciver's Furniture Store (Castle like) facade, Bea Greenberg's NJ Plumbing Supply, ( before she became "Mrs. G", Wolf's floor covering, Hamilton Jewelers ( Both lost in a terrible fire and relocated We now approach the holy Trinity, Goldberg's, Swern's, and Gimbels etc. etc. I have photographs of downtown Trenton from the 50's when I was a State and Broad Cowboy in front of Yard's swooning to the aroma of the goodies from the Federal Bake shop across the street, next to Kresge, where you walked in on State St. and came out on Broad passing Mrs. Fisher as she made those wonderful hot dogs. If I can get my aged mind to figuring out how to scan those photos, I will send them along to you. Now about the demise. I went to work for the City of Trenton in 1959 as a Housing Inspector. At that time the Urban Renewal was all about buy 'em up, knock 'em down and wait for some good luck. Chirp Holland fell for it, hook line and sinker. A scammer by the name of Graham promised all sorts of things if Holland would give him downtown Trenton land cheap, and level it all for his design team to show up and go at it. Well Holland gave orders to his political cohort; Hy Urken to get those businesses out of there. Hy did a bang up job, with the City's money, he relocated 90% of them to the townships. When all that Graham produced, was vacant weed and garbage strewn lots, I stood in front of a bulldozer to protest any further destruction of my town. My option was to do restoration. Holland became enraged at me, and stopped speaking to me. He got defeated by Carmen Armenti, and Carmen allowed me to do my restoration bit adjacent to my old neighborhood. I put together the first application for historic restoration in NJ and it was designated NJ1 by HUD, and became the highly successful "Mercer Jackson", now known as Mill Hill. BTW those "Barber poles" were known as "Bollards" and cost thousands of dollars each. When they were removed, and sold at auction, they commanded the heady price of $10.00 for scrap value. I left the City as Chief Real Estate Officer in 1971, after Holland threatened the Director with firing if he didn't get rid of me. I went with the State, and finished my career in 1989. Embarking on a highly successful career in Real Estate valuation, and land use. But the real love was the 90 or so properties I restored. Thanks again for stirring the memories. Cordially Mike Kuzma Now raising hell in Virginia It may be gone, but
Thursday, January 27, 2011
JoeZ said...

Tom: Great post about a great town. I also remember growing up with all the stores, the buses, the smell of peanuts and hot dogs, the rush of the Christmas crowds along with the cold of the night and the holiday music. Fond memories that will always be with me and I'm sure many others.

Mack said...

Hi Tom:) Just my 2 cents on the subject. The Automobile killed downtown and all attempts to stop it would only have slowed down the pace. Look at the people in this picture walking. Downtown Trenton TODAY still has many people walking aka state workers and they help keep downtown going at a reduced level but they go home at 5pm and on their days off go to malls. My generation drove to malls where there was PARKING and you could go in and out fast and drive home with the item in your car. Big department stores in central cities without parking?? Why go there??? Trying to prevent this process would be like a candle maker trying to prevent the sale of light bulbs. Only genuine customer loyalty kept places like Dunham's downtown going for as long as they did but the older generation with its shopping habits faded. Many of the older generation were a family where the man worked and had no car or used the 1 car to go to work and the wife stayed home and thus had the time and reason to take a bus downtown. That's gone too. Now most families are 2 car and 2 jobs. Obviously these folks now go to malls. Wait, did I hear someone say but New York City has successful urban big retailers.YES because its so big and its people have less cars and malls are too far away so it does'nt apply as an example. Trenton is not New York City. But the glass remains half full due to the state workers and thus we still do have a downtown. Its busy every workday from 8 to 5 and you can go there and see all the cool buildings and people going from place to place. While downtown Trenton can never be what it once was, it reamins something special and interesting and ALIVE in 2011.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, "Mike" -- so it was Kresge's where you went in from State Street and came out on Broad. I could not remember the name of that wonderful store.

Stephen Doyle said...

Mike- if you ever pass by, check out Mill Hill next time you are in town- your work paid big dividends! I've lived there now for almost 12 years with my family, and its an incredible gem in the City. here's a link to the neighborhood's website:

TO ALL WHO COMMENTED ON THIS AND OTHER POSTS:
First off, Mike, thanks so much for a very interesting insight into the beginnings of the crumble. I had no idea of all that chicanery going on. Steve, as a knowledgeable Mill Hill citizen, your input is also extremely valuable. My goal when I instituted this site was to have folks like those who have added their comments add to the historic significance of a specific post. Thanks to all.
Tom Glover
.I did go back to Mill Hill last September, when we buried my brother in law John Zuccarelli from our family parish; Sacred Heart. I still stay in touch with Larry Reilly, and took a moment to check out 408 Market St., a property I bought and personally restored after Holland had me done in in 1971. I went on to do several historically significant farm houses in Hunterdon County.
Still working as a restoration consultant here in the Williamsburg area, and serving as a Commissioner on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and pushing the restoration agenda.
Regards to Joe LaPlaca for his recent loss.

Thanks

Mike Kuzma
Friday, January 28, 2011

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tom
What happened to Trenton is what happened to almost every major city. Flite to the suburbs and the malls. I remember taking the bus near Holy Angels church to go uptown. In the winter the bus was warm. I remember the hot dog smell out of the 5 AND 10 and no money to buy one.Xmas time shopping with all the crowd and the brisk air. Xmas songs coming from the stores. You don't get that athmosphere from the malls. Dunhams was my mothers favorite store. Lee

Ralph Lucarella said...

HI TOM....MY DEAR FRIEND, SOPHIE DeANGELO, WORKED AT DUNHAM'S FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS. SHE WAS IN THE COSMETIC DEPT AND KEPT ME IN GOOD SUPPLY OF VARIOUS SAMPLES ALL THE WHILE. SHE WORKED WITH THEM IN BROAD STREET PARK AND ALSO, I BELIEV, IN LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP. SHE DEVOTED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO THE STORE, MAY GOD BLESS HER AND MAY SHE REST IN PEACE. REGARDS.

Stephen Doyle said...

Great writing- its a shame that people did not take your very good advice to restore what was in Trenton rather than building anonymous, characterless, monstrosities of the 1980's and 1990's. BUT, even if its coming 30 years later, there is a slow shift to recognize the value of the historic buildings. They help make Trenton unique, and the younger generation would much rather live in a historic, unique, older building than a cookie cutter development. I still hold out hope that someday a new version of a Dunham's will return- who knows how long it will take though!!!

Sally Logan Gilman said...

Tom: Your wonderful writing sure struck a chord with a lot of people. I foundly remember the downtown Trenton of my youth. I loved to shop Yard's and Dunham's and Stacy Sport Shop. Later, Arnold Constable where my friend and I bought matching yellow, oilskin slickers with corduroy on the collar. I rode the bus in and out and could ride everywhere on a transfer. I'm so sorry for what happened to our city but many of the large cities here in New England have suffered the same fate. Thanks again Tom for all you do.

Michael said...

Tom:

I'm compelled to inject my 2 cents worth on the demise of "Uptown" Trenton. Growing up in "Jewtown" as we goyum, and our Jewish brethern referred to our hallowed neighborhood, ( This will be elaborated on in another item herein published) "Uptown" began in the same block as my Parish Church; Sacred Heart on South Broad St. The Baby Carriage Factory was the first significant store, than crossing Market St. began the Court House Complex. (The old Court House, the Annex, and the jail) Than we got into the Palace Theatre,with Mama Manukas's Washington Resturant, Maury Robinson's, Harold's (Zelt) Men's fashions, Eton ( the original) Mens'& boys Factory St. and Georges Men Shop, Kahn's "Treadeasy" shoes, which were across from O'Neils shoe repair, and the manificent "Van Sciver's Furniture Store (Castle like) facade, Bea Greenbers NJ Plumbing Supply, ( before she became "Mrs. G", Wolf's floor covering, Hamilton Jewelers ( Both lost in a terrible fire and relocated We now appoach the holy Trinity, Goldbergs, Swern's, and Gimble's etc. etc.
I have photographs of downtown Trenton from the 50's when I was a State and Broad Cowboy in front of Yard's swooning to the aroma of the goodies from the Federal Bake shop across the street, next to Kresege, where you walked in on State St. and came out on Broad passing Mrs. Fisher as she made those wonderful hot dogs.
If I can get my aged mind to figuring out how to scan those photos, I will send them along to you.
Now about the demise. I went to work for the City of Trenton in 1959 as a Housing Inspector. At that time the Urban Renewal was all about buyem up, knock em down and wait for some good luck.
Chirp Holland fell for it, hook line and sinker. A scammer by the name of Graham promised all sorts of things if Holland would give him downtown Trenton land Cheap, and levl it all for his design team to show up and go at it.
Well Holland gave orders to his political cohort; Hy Urken to get those businesse's out of there.
Hy did a bang up job, with the City's money, he relocated 90% of them to the townships.
When all that Graham produced, was vacant weed and garbage strewn lots, I stood in front of a bulldozer to protest any further destruction of my town. My option was to do restoratiosn. Holland became enraged at me, and stopped speaking to me.
He got defeated by Carmen Armenti, and Carment allowed me to do my restoration bit adjacent to my old neighborhood. I put together the first application for historic restoration in NJ and it was designated NJ1 by HUD, and became the highly successful
"Mercer Jackson", now known as Mill Hill.
BTW those "Barber poles" were known as "Bollards" and cost thousands of dollars each. When they were removed, and sold at auction, they commanded the heady price of $10.00 for scrap value.
I left the City as Chief Real Estate Officer in 1971, after Holland threatened the Director with firing if he didn't get rid of me. I went with the State, and finished my career in 1989. Embarking on a highly successful career in Real Estate valuation, and land use. But the real love was the 90 or so properties I restored.

Thanks again for stirring the memories.

Cordially

Mike Kuzma
Now raising hell in Virginia
It may be gone, but

JoeZ said...

Tom: Great post about a great town. I also remember growing up with all the stores, the buses, the smell of peanuts and hotdogs, the rush of the Christmas crowds along with the cold of the night and the holiday music. Fond memories that will always be with me and I'm sure many others.

Mack said...

Hi Tom:)
Just my 2 cents on the subject.
The Automobile killed downtowns and all attempts to stop it would only have slowed down the pace.
Look at the people in this picture walking. Downtown Trenton TODAY still has many people walking aka stateworkers and they help keep downtown going at a reduced level but they go home at 5pm and on their days off go to malls. My generation drove to malls where there was PARKING and you could go in and out fast and drive home with the item in your car. Big department stores in central cities without parking??
Why go there??? Trying to prevent this process would be like a candlemaker trying to prevent the sale of lightbulbs. Only genuine customer loyalty kept places like Dunhams downtown going for as long as they did but the older generation with its shopping habits faded. Many of the older generation were a family where the man worked and had no car or used the 1 car to go to work and the wife stayed home and thus had the time and reason to take a bus downtown. Thats gone too. Now most families are 2 car and 2 jobs.
Obviously these folks now go to malls. Wait, did I hear someone say
but New York City has successful urban big retailers.YES because its so big and its people have less cars and malls are too far away so it doesnt apply as an example. Trenton is not New York City. But the glass remains half full due to the stateworkers and thus we still do have a downtown.
Its busy every workday from 8 to 5
and you can go there and see all the cool buildings and people going from place to place. While downtown Trenton can never be what it once was, it reamins something special and interesting and ALIVE
in 2011.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, "Mike" -- so it was Kresege's where you went in from State Street and came out on Broad. I could not remember the name of that wonderful store.

Stephen Doyle said...

Mike- if you ever pass by, check out Mill Hill next time you are in town- your work paid big dividends! I've lived there now for almost 12 years with my family, and its an incredible gem in the City. here's a link to the neighborhood's website:

Michael said...

Steve:

I did go back to Mill Hill last September, when we buried my brother in law John Zuccarelli from our family parish; Sacred Heart. I still stay in touch with Larry Reilly, and took a moment to check out 408 Market St., a property I bought and personally restored after Holland had me done in in 1971. I went on to do several historically significant farm houses in Hunterdon County.
Still working as a restoration consultant here in the Williamsburg area, and serving as a Commissioner on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and pushing the restoration agenda.
Regards to Joe LaPlaca for his recent loss.

Thanks

Mike Kuzma

Anonymous said...

I'm Danny G, but it was easier to fill the form as anonymous. I came to Trenton way after it's glory days. Trenton has a really bad stigma to those who don't frequent here, unfortunately. When I first started to get familiar with Trenton I saw a lot of relics of a glorious past and I think it hooked me. I wasn't exactly thrilled with having to look over my shoulder and dodge crime issues, but I dealt with it. Now, here I am still in the area 25 years later and I'm seeing so many positive changes. I've also talked to many of the old guard and have felt the sorry and anger due to the loss of early Trenton. Glen Cairn Arms is now completely down and the nursing school sure to go in it's place is wonderful. That makes that entire section very beautiful now as the old Roebling relic was redone a few years back also. There is a food pantry on Hanover called The Crisis Ministry and the entire section has improved with the demolition of a burned out shell and the restoration of The Crisis Ministry building. What some may think is graffiti is local artists doing local expressions, the jury is out on a final conclusion for some. The Arena is very nice and Centre Street and others have seen amazing revamps as of late. Taking down old failed public housing has been a blessing as well. The Waterfront and Tunnel are actually beautiful and it's given Lamberton Street it's own place to shine now. I found it amazing that the Italians have finally given up Chambersburg, I thought they'd be there forever. I guess the children of all those Chambersburg folks just didn't want to live in a smaller house in the city preferring to move elsewhere. Also amazing, is that the Latinos have now moved into Chambersburg-family oriented and tight knit, just like the early and later days of the Italians in C'burg. If you go up to North Warren, all that run down stuff is gone and some very beautiful townhomes are now located there. Anyway, I'm going on and on, and it will never be the Trenton of old, but in a way that's good depending on what "old" is to you. Old to me was that scary abandoned mess that I first encountered 25 years ago, so it's looking much better now. BTW, I have an old ledger from Yard's Department Store, one has an 1837 date written on it and the rest are early 1852 I believe. Pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

I recently found a box of men's neck ties in the back of a closet in my parent's home in Florida. My step father is a 94+ year old retired Trenton fireman! Three of the ties are tagged RA Donnelly Trenton, NJ and I've listed them on E bay with hopes that they will sell as Vintage ties! I cannot find anything related to that store, and unfortunately my step father's dementia isn't giving him the memory to recall anything related to it - nor as to where all of these ties came to be in that closet!